AUSTIN, Texas — Lauren Ebo suited up at Texas for the first time Friday night, scoring 14 points to help the Texas women's basketball team take down Drake, 101-80, Friday at the Frank Erwin Center.
With the victory, the Longhorns improved to 5-1 overall — all games played so far have been non-conference tilts — while the Bulldogs slipped to 2-4.
Ebo, a junior transfer from Penn State who previously had been denied immediate eligibility by the NCAA, benefited from the recently-announced NCAA blanket waiver that made all transfers immediately eligible. It was an emotional return for the forward, who was simply thankful to be back on the court in an actual game.
"It was definitely exciting," Ebo said after the game. "I was ready to be out there. Obviously, I'd been watching for the last couple of games. My game condition is going to get better, but it was exciting."
The 6-4 Ebo teamed teamed up with 6-5 Charli Collier to provide Texas with a potent one-two punch in the paint that played a crucial role in the Longhorns' victory. In addition to her 14 points, Ebo brought down seven rebounds, and while Collier failed to record her sixth straight double-double of the season, she did score 17 points to go along with four boards.
The two were among five Longhorns who recorded double-digit scoring totals. Guard Joanne Allen-Taylor found her mark from outside, scoring a team-high 23 points. Repeated drives down the lane left the Bulldogs little choice but to foul her, resulting in multiple trips to the charity stripe; Allen-Taylor knocked down 10 of 12 free throws from the line.
Audrey Warren scored 18 points, while transfer guard Kyra Lambert added 11.
"I just go with the flow of the offense," Allen-Taylor said. "[Drake] was double-teaming so much in the paint so it really opened up so much for the guards. It was just my night tonight."
It was one of those offensive slugfests that often result when both teams produce offensively, but struggle to find a defensive rhythm. Texas took a 59-44 lead into halftime en route to hittine the century mark for the second time this season; the 59 points were the most in a first half for the Horns in this 2020-21 season. At the same time, the Bulldogs never completely went away, and put 11 more points on the board than any other Texas opponent this season.
"I thought we really played well offensively," Schaefer said. "Obviously, 59 points in a half is a lot of points. I thought we were aggressive, we attacked. I'm not excited about giving up 80 points or 44 in the first half. That's enough to cause me a lot of heartburn, but we did hold them to 5-of-20 from three point range, had 16 steals and 21 turnovers. I want commend Drake for an outstanding ballgame. Those kids never quit, they really challenge you, every offensive possession."
Texas came out strong from the tip, going on a 12-0 scoring run midway through the first quarter, which helped the Horns put together a comfortable lead. Drake cut the deficit to single digits at multiple points in the second quarter, even using solid defense and trips to the foul line to post a 10-2 run late in the second quarter. The Horns quickly put an end to the Bulldogs' upset bid, forcing 21 turnovers by the final buzzer, and running away with the victory in the second half.
Regardless of the final score and the positives and negatives to be taken away from the win, Schaefer could not overstate the value of facing a solid mid-major such as Drake before kicking off Big 12 play Sunday at Kansas State.
"It was critical, I thought," Schaefer said. "I wasn't interested in playing a lower Div. I or a three-name directional school. We needed to play somebody good. It was a great challenge for us. We needed that. We needed to have that focus and intensity."
"I think it was really good preparation for Kansas State," added Allen-Taylor. "Drake being a team that pushes it up the floor, our conditioning was tested tonight, which I think we needed. I think we're ready to play our next one because of this game."